March 29 – Boganda Day in Central African Republic

Posted on March 29, 2015

Barthelemy Boganda wasn't born in the Central African Republic. As a matter of fact, if he hadn't been born, there might not BE a Central African Republic!

Born in 1910 in a part of Africa that was administered by France, Boganda was part of a family of subsistence farmers, which means that they only grew enough food and other items for the family and had not extra crops to sell to others. However, Boganda was adopted and educated by some Catholic missionaries. He ended up being ordained the first Catholic priest from that part of Africa (which was called Obuangui-Chari).

In 1946, after World War II, Boganda went into politics, and he became the first Oubanguian elected to the French National Assembly. He fought against racism and also against the colonial government of his land. And, back at home, he started a grassroots movement among his people to oppose French colonialism.

He left the priesthood, married, and continued to work for equality and civil rights for black people. In 1958, the French government began to consider granting independence to most of its African colonies. Boganda met with the French Prime Minister and hammered out an agreement to create an independent Central African Republic.

Boganda didn't live to see his dream become reality!

Boganda was ruling the newly-autonomous territory as its first Prime Minister, helping to write a new constitution, which was adopted in February of 1959. On this date in 1959, just a month later and just before legislative elections, Boganda boarded a plane to fly from across the almost-independent nation—but his aircraft exploded in the air, killing all passengers and crew.

Boganda designed the flag for 
the nation he didn't live to see.
This is the first postage stamp 
of the new nation.
Many people thought—then and now—that the plane was sabotaged, and one newspaper in Europe reported that experts had found traces of explosive in the plane's wreckage. But no commission was ever formed to investigate the mysterious explosion, and we still don't know what happened

Needless to say, the people of the new nation were shocked. There was a huge outpouring of grief. The Central African Republic did achieve formal independence from France in August of 1960, but Boganda wasn't able to lead the new nation, as he had hoped, or even see it.

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